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Jungle Warfare and Anti-Terrorism

Malaya, Brunei and Borneo

Royal Marines patrolling in the jungle in Borneo, c.1962-66. (RMM)
Royal Marines patrolling in the jungle in Borneo, c.1962-66. (RMM)

The Corps first experiences of jungle warfare occurred in World War Two. Immediately following the war, unrest in the Far East meant that the Royal Marines maintained a presence in that theatre for the next few decades. During their time in the jungle the Corps re-learned valuable lessons from World War Two on how jungle tours could affect the health of the men. In the early years of jungle tours of duty many would develop foot rot and other diseases from the conditions in the jungle. As a result officers and SNCOs went on hygiene courses and men learned how to stay fit and which food and waterways to avoid.

The Corps recognised that acclimatisation and specific jungle training were needed for the Commandos to adapt to the specific needs of such warfare. The troops would have to patrol large areas, which meant that communication with commanding officers was scarce and stealth and independent operation was at a premium. Below are some examples of patrolling and signalling methods used by the Commandos whilst operating in the jungle.

Field Signals. Extract from the Infantry Training Centre Royal Marines CRW Patrolling training booklet published December 1969. (RMM)
Field Signals. Extract from the Infantry Training Centre Royal Marines CRW Patrolling training booklet published December 1969. (RMM)

Diagrams of the Harbouring Drill showing the different positions and stages undertaken when platoons moving through the jungle stop for the night. Commandos would perform this drill at the end of the day to maintain security and effective communication with the different sections of a platoon whilst settling down for the night. From Jungle Warfare School FARELF Jungle Wing. Revised edition Jan 1967. (RMM)
Diagrams of the Harbouring Drill showing the different positions and stages undertaken when platoons moving through the jungle stop for the night. Commandos would perform this drill at the end of the day to maintain security and effective communication with the different sections of a platoon whilst settling down for the night. From Jungle Warfare School FARELF Jungle Wing. Revised edition Jan 1967. (RMM)

Malaya

In May 1950 the Brigade began what would turn out to be a two-year tour of duty in Malaya aiding the civil administration and police to quell anti terrorist activity. The Chinese terrorists of the Malayan Communist Party were trying to recruit other Chinese settlers, many illegal immigrants squatting in Malayan villages, in the country to overthrow the government. The Brigade disembarked at Penang and after six weeks jungle training, travelled for duty in the state of Perak, a region about the size of on the border with Thailand. The area had plenty of dense jungle and swampland in which the insurgents hid. Brigade HQ and 42 Commando based themselves in Ipoh, the state capital of Perak whilst 40 settled in Kuala Kangsar in the north and 45 in Tapah, in the south.

The Children at Jerlun were inclined to be friendly. Photograph of Chinese immigrant children happy and recently resettled in a defended village in Malaya, 1951. (RMM)
The Children at Jerlun were inclined to be friendly. Photograph of Chinese immigrant children happy and recently resettled in a defended village in Malaya, 1951. (RMM)

The Commando Brigade’s initial task was to split the Chinese squatters from contact with the Malayan Communist Party’s underground army and resettle them in new, guarded villages. Re -settling the squatters also had the impact of drawing the terrorists out further from their jungle hideouts in their attempts to obtain supplies and money. By the summer of 1951 around 91,000 of these Chinese illegal immigrants would be re-housed in new, defended, villages.

Night ambushes are laid. 40 Commando, Malaya, 1952. (RMM)
Night ambushes are laid. 40 Commando, Malaya, 1952. (RMM)

The other task for the Commandos was in anti-bandit operations. Each unit had a large area to cover and therefore it was broken down so that each troop would have their own area to patrol. As a result, some troops found themselves operating in an area 60 miles away from their unit headquarters. The troops would carryout arduous patrols of their area, many lasting from a whole day up to two or three weeks at a time. Leeches, mosquitoes and giant ants plagued these patrols as the troops marched through the dense jungle, often having to wade in mangrove swamps. Ambushes were set upon prowling terrorists, many lasting for days at a time as Commandos remained concealed in the same positions waiting to pounce.

Commando News, Ipoh Saturday 23 February 1952. Newsletter of 3 Commando Brigade. The front page features news on the activities of each Commando unit with

In addition to patrolling and ambushing, the Commandos also provided assistance to the police in searches and screenings for terrorists in the local towns and villages. During these searches it was important to win the hearts and minds of the locals in order to dissuade any potential up risers and also to gather intelligence on the whereabouts and activities of the bandits in hiding.

Propaganda flyer, Malaya c. 1950. Propaganda leaflet depicting a happy Chinese family laughing and hugging used as a propaganda attempt to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous people and Chinese immigrants of Malaya during 3 Commando Brigade's attempts to quell anti terrorism in the country. (RMM)
Propaganda flyer, Malaya c. 1950. Propaganda leaflet depicting a happy Chinese family laughing and hugging used as a propaganda attempt to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous people and Chinese immigrants of Malaya during 3 Commando Brigade's attempts to quell anti terrorism in the country. (RMM)